Afghans pin hopes on underfunded election, as challenges lie ahead
Afghan election officials began voter registration on Saturday for long-delayed parliamentary and district council elections.
Afghans are pinning their hopes on the elections although challenges remain, including lack of funds and increasing security problems.
On April 1, Gula Jan Abdul Badi Sayad, chairman of the Independent Election Commission (IEC), announced October 20 as the date for upcoming polls, twice delayed in previous years.
“Finally, the IEC set October 20 as a new date for parliamentary and district council elections. The announcement is absolutely good news for all, and in my opinion the date is perfect,” said Asadullah Sadaqat, an English language teacher in Kabul. “We hope the process will put an end to the current political instability and conflict. People in every part of the country can participate in the election because the weather and climate will not be a barrier in the process.” Sedaqat warned that insurgents will do their best to sabotage the elections and will remain “the main obstructer of the process.”
The first parliamentary election in post-Taliban Afghanistan was held in 2005 while the second parliamentary took place in 2010.
The 2015 parliamentary election, originally set for early 2015 following presidential elections, was repeatedly delayed.
As the country’s political parties did not meet standards, most candidates will contest independently for a five-year term at the 249-seat lower house of parliament. Despite optimism at the polls, the parliamentary and district council elections face challenges such as lack of budget, security dangers and lack of trust in election commission officials.
Security is the most serious challenge. It seems that providing security for the election will be a daunting challenge for Afghan security forces as well as international troops.
“Out of the total 7,355 polling stations, 1,122 centers are under a medium security threat and another 1,120 face serious security threats: all of which need to be secured by the security institutions,” Deputy Minister of the Interior Ministry General Murad Ali Murad told local media.
Another key issue is the budget for the election. International donors have previously provided the required budget for the elections but this time it is unknown who will pay for the elections.
The 2014 presidential election, marred by massive fraud that led to a re-run, undermined people’s trust in the election commissioners. People doubt the ability of the election authorities to hold a fair, free and transparent election.
“I do not want to participate in the upcoming election because my vote will not be counted as it was not counted in the past presidential and parliamentary elections,” said Murtaza Ashuri, a university student.
“It is in the interests of all Afghans and the government to hold an election and there is no alternative to it. The international community ought to help the government of Afghani- stan’s elections both financially and technically,” said Abdul Wahab Karimi, a law professor at private Ibn-e-Sina University.
Bahsir Ahmad Qasani, a respected journalist, told local 1TV Television, that lack of funding remained a challenge for the election body.
“The last presidential and parliamentary polls were marred by massive election fraud. We must do more to encourage people to register for upcoming votes and persuade them to trust in IEC staff and politicians as well,” Qasani said.